Saturday, January 23, 2016

Depth of Knowledge

Here is one of my FAVORITE quick tools for 2015-2016.  Music teachers have such a unique opportunity for creative and extended thinking (higher levels of depth of knowledge) in our classrooms.  We know it, but do the kids know it?  Here's how I have been successfully empowering my students with this knowledge! Get ready to watch them take charge of their learning and WANT to go further with a few brain cartoons and information that just MAKES SENSE TO THEM!

DOK 1: Couch Brain: LABELING our "IT" ("IT"=Our concept)
      *Label (think labeling rhythmic and melodic symbols), memorize, match, define, tell, identify, etc

DOK 2: Walking Brain: APPLYING our "IT"("IT"=Our concept)
      *Construct (think constructing a four beat measure!), graph, compare, etc.

DOK 3: Sweating Brain: STRATEGIC THINKING with our "IT"("IT"=Our concept)
      *Revise with strategic thinking (think editing a composition or finding specific strategies to improve performance technique), compare, explain in terms of concepts, differentiate, etc

DOK 4: Brain Burpees: EXTENDED THINKING with our "IT"("IT"=Our concept)
      *Design (designing a composition from a strategic point of view with rhythms, melodies, and harmonies that comes together to tell a creative story), prove, create, synthesize, connect to the outside world

The brain pictures located above the DOK visual have changed the game in my room!  It was such a simple "carrot" to get their attention so they would investigate the poster further.

HOW DO I IMPLEMENT THIS IN MY ROOM?:  (As with all my tools that I share on my blog, I make sure that this is implemented quickly so that I don't take time away from movement, singing, and creating joyful music.  These strategies are used to enhance what I'm already doing and not shifted to be the main point.)

I have done a lot of modeling which has helped to avoid students making random guesses.  When they point out or make a prediction as to what an activity is or was, they know to put quality thought into it (give evidence to support their reasoning), rather than make a random guess.  Wrong answers (with solid thought) have lead to GREAT discussions!   I have watched healthy debates in the classrooms and students empowered to state their opinion in a safe environment!  Another benefit to this list is that the students are encouraged to see how far we are pushing our brains.  They want to have more tally marks at DOK 3 and DOK 4.

Note: My students know that there is NOTHING wrong with DOK 1.  We need foundational skills to get to higher levels of learning and questioning!  It's when we find large quantities of tally marks at DOK 1 only that we have something visual to remind us that we haven't been pushing our brains as far as they can go.  It also allows me as an educator to see if I am pushing my students' thinking as far as it can go! ACCOUNTABILITY! 

WHY AM I DOING THIS?:  Implementing these strategies in my classroom has pushed me as an educator.  It has really shown me that I can push my lesson plans to the next level to make sure that I am infusing purposeful higher level questioning into everything I am doing.  It has taught me that simply having students decode and perform rhythmic patterns isn't a high level of DOK.  This pushed me to look for deeper ways that my students can explore our concepts.  It has also given me more talking points to utilize in discussions outside the music classroom regarding what we are doing.  Talk about great advocacy for our music program!  

I have seen a shift in motivation in my classroom.  We use the language that students are competing against themselves to push their brain as far as it can go.  They can choose to have a "sleeping brain" all day long, but other brains that are constantly "working out" are going to be able to run further and have far more stamina (think innovation, Apple Watches, cures for diseases, the great new novel.....I know this might seem extreme, but I BELIEVE that this creative thinking starts with me at the elementary level!).  This analogy has gotten several of my students' brains "off the couch" and the results are showing up in their work, questioning, opinions, and general discussions.  I keep hearing from people in the general public that we are losing creative thinkers in society ....CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!  

I have seen students wanting to push their brains to higher levels of DOK through this new understanding on a daily basis.  Students are being exposed to the fact that their brains are capable of so much more (insert educational buzz word rigor here.....)!  Students are understanding that just because you label a rhythmic symbol, their brains are capable of so much more exploration and independent suggestions, strategies, and application.

ENCOURAGING SURPRISES:  Several other teachers at our school have since started implementing these strategies into their classrooms too!  The students already know the process, now they just have to transfer it into another classroom/subject area.  Our 2nd grade teacher has commented that the students are pointing out what level DOK they are reaching throughout the day even without the visual aid.  It's working! 

Thank you so much for reading!  Feel free to post comments and questions below!



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  2. Thank you for very much for this post. DOK is something that I would like to implement in my music classroom. Do you have some resources or more information that you would recommend that would help me learn more about how to apply DOK to my music room. Thank you and I look forward to reading more of your posts